The Great Gatsby

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Great Gatsby Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
American classic captures romance, debauchery of Jazz Age.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 38 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Great Gatsby is a book very much of its time. Readers will learn about life in New York during the Jazz Age (1920s), and about drinking behavior during Prohibition. Also, the character Tom Buchanan converses about books he likes that represent bigoted views held by many whites at that time. These beliefs are often offensive, but they do inform the reader about the time Fitzgerald portrays.

Positive Messages

Many of the characters behave irresponsibly at best, and the most romantic character in the novel, Gatsby himself, is probably involved in criminal business dealings. The most positive message in the book is probably that readers should learn from the characters' mistakes. However, there's something beautiful in Gatsby's undying devotion to Daisy. Though Fitzgerald deeply questions the wisdom of trying to recapture the past, Gatsby believes in his dream of restoring lost love in a way that's childlike and touching.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are a lot more negative role models in The Great Gatsby than positive ones. The narrator, Nick, is largely a foil for the lovers' bad behavior, but his intention of being a real friend to Gatsby, especially in the end, is admirable.


In one scene, a man punches his lover in the face during an argument. At another point, a woman is fatally hit by a car, and the condition of her body is described briefly but graphically.


Adults in the book flirt and kiss. Reference is also made to extramarital affairs, and Fitzgerald describes the past relationship of two characters, saying that the man "took her," though sex is never actually described.


Curse words are not used, but other offensive language is. The book includes the word "kike," and characters are prejudiced toward Jewish and African-American people.


There are many examples of excessive material wealth in The Great Gatsby. In fact, the majority of the culture during this time was defined by consumerism and flashy lifestyles. Gatsby's way of life in particular is very much dictated by his devotion to Daisy, which explains the lavish mansion and extravagant parties to impress the object of his affection.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The adults consume a great deal of alcohol, which fuels some bad behavior. As the novel was written and takes place in the United States before the Surgeon General's warning, cigarette smoking is also ubiquitous.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that THE GREAT GATSBY is at once a romantic and cynical novel about the wealth and habits of a group of New Yorkers during the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald's writing is unassailably magnificent, as he paints a grim portrait of shallow characters who maneuver themselves into complex situations. This classic American novel is required reading for a lot of high school students, and it can definitely be appreciated and understood on some levels by teenagers. However, Fitzgerald's use of language and symbolism is best appreciated by mature readers able to analyze literature and think critically. Parents also need to know that some characters express racial and religious prejudice.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byskier53 June 23, 2013

A Captivating Read!

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has captured the attention of many audiences for over half a century. His use of symbolism paints an image that many can... Continue reading
Adult Written bygreatlitmom November 7, 2018

Themes of female sexuality,

This book is definitely well written and successfully pulls you into the debauchery of Gatsby's world. There were no overt descriptions of sexual behavior.... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bycbar04 April 4, 2016

classic american novel

I have only read the first few chapters of this book, but I can tell you that it is an amazing, perfect novel that, in essence, makes it a great American novel.... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byhurriedpiano1231 May 26, 2021


The Great Gatsby is a timeless book that can relate to almost everyone of any age and class. The literary device keep the story from falling flat, and add dimen... Continue reading

What's the story?

Nick Carraway spends a summer living in a cheap rental house surrounded by lavish mansions on Long Island in the 1920s. Among his neighbors are his beautiful cousin Daisy, her loutish husband Tom, and her former lover, Jay Gatsby, whose history and epic parties are fodder for gossip. Nick becomes caught up in the machinery of more than one romantic triangle as the summer begins to fade and Gatsby's orchestra stops playing.

Is it any good?

THE GREAT GATSBY is a magnificent novel on every level. Fitzgerald writes about the Jazz Age in language that beautifully evokes music. He writes about a hot day in a way that almost makes you sweat. His characters are well-drawn, and the plot is engaging and fast-paced. Though this novel is possibly best appreciated by college-level readers, advanced high school students will find a lot to enjoy and discuss.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Gatsby's five-year quest to regain Daisy's heart. Is his dream realistic? What is Fitzgerald saying about trying to recapture the past?

  • What kind of person is Nick? Do you feel he is a well-formed character? Why was he so devoted to Gatsby at the end of the book?

  • What is Gatsby really like? How is he different from the widely held ideas about him in the book?

  • Why do you think this book is considered a classic?

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